Last week we had our first freeze, about a month earlier than is typical. Last year we had a mid-November freeze, which was also early and then we warmed right on up again through December and didn’t freeze again until January, I believe. Some years here we freeze in December, one year I remember not freezing until January. I liked that year.
But this year we got it early which meant Chris shuffled his orchids and bromeliads in and I moved a few plants from the potting bench to the back porch. I didn’t bother covering some things in the edible garden and it looks like the gourds are the only things that truly suffered, though there’s some mild damage to the squash and a few other things. The peppers didn’t bat an eye and the okra look like they would keep on producing if I’d ever actually pick the pods. I need to go through and take some stuff down later this week.
The frostweed is bending over heavily after blooming this year but it is another plant I’m glad I nabbed seeds from and threw into the beds. The pollinators have been loving it.
I came across this interesting insect in the garden over the weekend and it is a relative of another I found back in September in the edible garden. On first approach it appears to be an ant but after putting it on iNaturalist it appears the concensus is some kind of Broad-headed Bug, Family Alydidae. Would be great to get an actual identification at some point!
The blue curls were looking too lovely in the light beams that I had to get my reverse macro mount out and take a few photos. It was tricky as the wind was moving, I was kind of shaky that afternoon, and the flower was so small. But a few came out rather clear.
I attempted the reverse macro again with the coastal germander, Teucrium cubense. We bought a container of it at a plant sale in the spring and it has flourished. I only recently came across it for the first time in the wild when we did some field work in mid-October.
And the only hungry chompers I’m seeing right now are the orange dogs, the giant swallowtails. I remembered seeing one as I walked by the citrus early last week before the freeze and wondered if it would fare alright. Then, Forest and I were wandering the yard looking for cidada exoskeletons on Saturday and I remembered the caterpillars so we peered around and found a few. They managed to make it! It should warm up rather well for them in the coming week which will hopefully let them finish their cycles and get into a chrysalis.
I’m just starting some gardening cleanup and maybe I’ll manage to sow some more edible seeds. If not, I’m allowing myself to just take it easy this winter in the edible garden, do a few chores and focus more for spring if that’s where I end up heading.
How about a short series of photos from the last month??
Of course there was Halloween last week. We kicked off with our tiny community’s hayride event, which Forest went dressed as a dinosaur! I tested out my feeble face painting skills and T-Rex got 2nd place! Well, we actually kicked off the night before at a fall festival at his school where there were games, food, and friends. Then there was a Halloween party at school and Halloween night trick-or-treating as well. For both of those he wanted to dig out his almost-too-tight costume from last year and be Spider Man again. *shrugs*
Last weekend we attempted to go the zoo late morning but found insane traffic to park and when we looked for a spot it appeared the lot was entirely full, which meant you’d have to stalk anyone leaving which we didn’t have the patience to do. Forest cried and we decided to go to the aquarium in downtown instead. He’d gone this summer with school and had fun and I knew it wasn’t anything spectacular like a major aquarium but we had fun!
I’m finding my energy to get back out there once again. I started working on the flower paths and cleaning up some general debris on the garden this weekend. We really need to mulch the beds before winter (but we just had our first freeze almost a month early so, whatever, winter is here) but I’m not sure I’m in the mood for that yet.
During my weekend with my friends we played some cards games. It spurred me to get into playing games more with Forest and so I bought a Go-Fish deck and we’ve been playing during the week. Now he’s getting more interested in games so I’m trying to make time to play for 20-30 minutes a few nights a week with him.
Currently reading Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah. I’m also listening to The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen L. Brusatte which might sound like a tome but it is actually written well for the non-paleontologist. And the narrator has charisma so it is an enjoyable listen. Plus, he’ll mention a dinosaur and I’ll be like “Hey, I know that one!”–helps to have a dino obsessed 5 year old. There’s a few others I’ve finished lately and am in the middle of reading as well.
Also, this article: The 2010s have broken our sense of time. This article reinforced my love for pre-2010 movies, or movies with flip phones only.
I’m still working on Forest’s rainbow afghan which looks really lovely but I haven’t been dedicating a ton of time to it lately. I’m pondering getting into a weekly or more than once a week situation with some nature sketchbooking.
Watching & Listening:
I just binged The Crown season 1 & 2 again in anticipation of season 3 here in a few weeks. I’ve been editing a lot of photos and working on that afghan so it has gone well together. I started The Good Place last night which is kind of funny and with short episodes. Works well for when you are half paying attention to something and multi-tasking. Other than that I’m only watching This is Us and Grey’s Anatomy on network tv.
Still debating driving to DFW for a couple of friends and family events here in a few weeks. Thanksgiving is this month and we haven’t made camping reservations yet. Not sure what we’re doing with that yet. Voting is Tuesday. I have jury duty the week after. Nothing terribly exciting on the agenda this month!
I’m enjoying this ‘extra hour’ this morning with a bit more lingering than I would be doing at this time of morning. Hope everyone is well out there in blog reading land!
Over the last week or so I’ve been deep diving in our backup hard drives. The goal is to look for certain photos for my friend Eliana but as I’ve been sifting through photos I’m finding all sorts that we never edited—especially photos Chris took. Along the way I’m shuffling over files that I want to edit but I know I’ll be going back through the drives to pick out favorites and revisit some items.
One of those sets were these handful of photos you see above of an atala butterfly and several larvae. We had seen them at Mounts Botanic Garden in West Palm Beach in March of 2008. I remembered visiting the garden and have thought about the place from time to time over the years but apparently we never edited photos and put them on Flickr—Flickr is basically my photo repository on the cloud at this point in time and I’m tied to it forever. Don’t ever go away, Flickr!
This feels like maybe the only time we came across an adult atala but I feel like we’ve come across other larvae on its larval host plant, the cycad coontie, but I’m not certain. So, the story with this butterfly is that in the late 1800s it was considered to be incredibly abundant in southeast Florida and a handful of Caribbean islands. The host plant, coontie, had been used by the various tribes in Florida for sustenance but considering coontie is a slow growing plant and already confined to certain habitats and locales, it wouldn’t take much for habitat loss and over harvesting to affect the populations of coontie. Well, while a balance had been struck between humans and coontie, that was thrown to the wind when Florida really opened up to settlers as the they also in time began to also harvest the coontie, without all the respect and balance for nature that the tribes had been using when harvesting the plant.
Subsequently the atala population plummeted and by the mid 1900s the butterfly was thought to be extirpated from Florida. Ah, isn’t this usually the story? Abundance and then something tips and boom! a species is now extinct. (See: passenger pigeons)
In the late 70s a population of atala butterflies was found on Key Biscayne, though in my readings it isn’t clear if this is a repopulation from butterflies in the Bahamas or hold outs from the original population that managed to survive. Either way, biologists began rearing butterflies on cultivated coonties and started reintroducing them across their native range. Then, as coontie began to show up in the nursery trade, the plant became more abundant in landscaping throughout south Florida, thus creating a different habitat for the atala larvae. Now a once potentially extinct species is considered to be somewhat abundant once again. It is still considered rare and vulnerable by various agencies due to general habitat loss and other factors that affect insects such as pesticides, but what a remarkable turnaround in 40 years!
I’m including some links below for further reading if you are interested!
+The Coontie and the Atala Hairstreak by Roger Hammer in the FNPS The Palmetto magazine. I saw several references that mention Roger as the person who rediscovered this population but he doesn’t state that himself in this article. I wouldn’t be surprised that Roger found it, he’s a renowned naturalist in south Florida. It’s a great article worth reading.
+Atala History via the Atala Chapter of North American Butterfly Association
+Eumaeus atala via UF IFAS
+A Nearly Extinct Butterfly Makes a Comeback in South Florida via Entomology Today
+BAMONA Sightings—including two stray historical sightings in the lower and mid-south.
+iNaturalist sightings—far more are included here so you can see how widespread it is being seen now.
We’ve been friends for 21 years now. As we sat around the picnic tables at Fort Boggy State Park, we reminisced about the past and how we met up on the T/S Texas Clipper II during the summer of 1998, trying to piece together the other friendships and acquaintances that led us all together. While our friend group is a bit broader than the three of us, over the last several years only three of us have gotten together to spend a weekend together. First we included all of the kids, five between us, and then we moved to an adults only weekend since at least two of us aren’t regularly away from it all.
Except for the bathroom situation, this year proved to be perfect—perfect weather, perfect cabin, perfect schedule (nothing). I managed to find a cabin at Fort Boggy State Park that looked enticing and it proved to be beyond all expectations. The bathroom situation was fine for me because of my already rustic nature but I was with two city slickers, however we all made do generally. Considering that we’re either 40 or nearing 40, health implications are ramping up–not just the thoughts about growing older but actual medical issues that I think we’re all trying to wrap our heads around. It’s easy for me to think that I’m still 30 and as spry as I was before having Forest but that is definitely not the case. And it isn’t just that, but knowing that I’m capable of more things than one of my friends because of her illness had it hitting home to not take for granted what I’m able to do at 39 and to keep the movement going, to stay active, to keep focusing on overall health and longevity. I’m sounding like I’m 60, but middle age is smacking me in the face soon. I’m also being deliberately vague here but I shed a lot of tears 10-11 years ago when we found out about my friend’s diagnosis and here we are, time passing us by and the effects a decade later also smacking us in the face. I can’t help but think in 5, 10, 15 years how we’ll be adjusting these weekends, because I know we plan on keeping them up (and maybe turning them into a week to some far-off place eventually) and we’ll be figuring out what we’re able to do together as a group.
So, there was lounging around in pajamas, taking luxurious noon-day naps, slow meal times, and plenty of porch sitting. With no agenda, our only outing was to the Dollar General to pick up a few food items we forgot and of course we got distracted by the random junk we could buy ourselves and our kids. There was time spent down by the lake playing Uno and learning to play Skip-Bo, and now I want to bring cards games back into my life after a 20 year hiatus. I grew up playing Uno with my family and played cards in classes in high school after we’d done our work, and now I can’t wait for Forest to learn card games. I may have to find Go Fish to get him started. As I was driving home after the weekend my urge was to just sit and play cards, to have that chatter and game time to soak in the autumn sun and enjoy the afternoon.
Saturday evening we managed to pull our assets together to build a fire. I’ve watched Chris build plenty so it wasn’t like I came into this knowing nothing but as I said, Chris makes the fires. One of my friends stepped in because she’d had some lessons from another friend of hers and together we managed to get the fire going long enough to roast ‘mallows and make s’mores. S’mores are the type of dessert that it doesn’t take long for the sugar overload to set in and after a few were made we opted to linger on the porch while the fire simmered. Eventually we were responsible campers and doused the fire out, though I could have gone for the simmering smells of a campfire all night long.
On Sunday we attempted to drag out the remaining hours together as long as possible, eating a slow breakfast and sipping coffee on the porch again. Time crept up on us and because we had a short walk to haul everything back to the cars and check-out we got our acts together late morning to clean up and leave the cabin. I realized that morning that we’d had a late breakfast and just because we had to leave the cabin at noon didn’t mean we had to leave the state park and so our card gaming continued at the picnic tables near the pond where we sat in dappled sunshine for a couple more hours. Eventually we trekked into the tiny town of Centerville, most famously known for Woody’s Smokehouse, an I-45 rest stop destination. Probably a bit eye-rollingly to them, twenty minutes south down the road from there is Madisonville and Buc-ee’s has opened a new store, and I suspect there are plenty of customers who have been swayed to change their mid-way Dallas to Houston rest stop. While Woody’s Smokehouse has great barbeque we opted for local Italian restaurant that had just wrapped up the post-church rush at two in the afternoon.
Bellies full, we said goodbye and departed ways, two of us trekking south via farm-to-market roads and one heading north via I-45. I know it gets said every time, “We should do this more often!” and I know we will try our best but life is full. I live about an hour away from one of my friends and we could easily get together for a few hours every couple of months with the kids. I do think we’ll try our best to make time for a second get together with the kids in the spring and then a solo weekend in the autumn, though. I wish there was an easy answer for how to make these things come together more easily and if you’ve got one, do let me know! It probably involves living in the same town, though!
I’m trying to find an eloquent way to wrap up this little essay but all I can come up with are the bundle of soft emotions I feel from a wonderful weekend with friends, thoughts that don’t exactly leap out easily in any firm linguistic context. Suffice to say, I love and miss my friends and we had a lovely, quiet weekend together!
Because I take too many photos these days I’ve broke down the Carlanna Lake Trail into two posts, with this one focusing on the flora, fauna, and fungi we found.
This was seen not far from the trailhead parking lot and honestly, I’m not sure what it is. iNaturalist suggested cotoneaster and the closest one I think that would be is Late Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster coriaceus. It is native to China and so I’m thinking this is an escapee from the neighborhood nearby. Again, not 100% certain on the ID.
Western Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus. This one seemed familiar when I saw it as it reminded me of the skunk cabbage you see in the eastern US but I wasn’t sure if they were related. They aren’t the same genus but they are in the Araceae family so upstream a bit they are related. Very abundant in the streamside wetland areas here.
Devil’s Club, Oplopanax horridus. I would come to learn that this plant has a strong ethnobotanical tie to the area, represented in a lot of items for sale representing the local area—such as books, jewelry, postcards, etc—plus seeing tinctures, salves, and other medicinal products for sale in stores owned by members of the local tribes.
Western Lily of the Valley, Maianthemum dilatatum. When I first saw these I thought they would be some kind of wild ginger (not the tropical one, the Asarum version) but nope, completely different. This one also has ethnobotanical uses.
Oval-leaf Blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium but also possibly Vaccinium alaskense according to someone on iNat—apparently the berries were darker and that’s usually a characteristic of this species. Again, up for grabs if someone knows better!
Stink Currant, Ribes bracteosum—Also edible.
Ahhh, I wonder what the lake looks like now in mid-October?
When we woke up on Wednesday of our cruise we found ourselves in Ketchikan. We’d been there for a bit it seemed though I don’t think we were supposed to have been there until 7am but we had clearly been tied up at the dock for a while. Though, as we came to find out when we left port later that afternoon, the crew had everything down to a science and we were out of port within 30 minutes of the final call to board the ship.
Our dock was just west of the main area in town and there were already tour buses ready for those who were preparing to go on one of those. We’d purposely not booked any tours for one town just so we could do something on our own. I’d looked at hiking trails in the area and had found that the Carlanna Lake Trail was a suitable option as it was near enough to town that a taxi ride wouldn’t be enormously expensive but it was far enough out that it would give us a remote feeling as we hiked.
There were several taxis waiting at the port when we arrived and because we had docked early everyone on board was still finishing up breakfast and not quite ready to get out and about. We ate breakfast quickly, packed up and disembarked, finding our way down to the taxis. The woman driving the taxi knew exactly where Carlanna Lake was and tried to give us local beta to access a waterfall that wasn’t on a map—which we ended up not finding. I think we should have gone another five minutes up the trail from where we turned around—oh well!
There was one other person at the trailhead in a vehicle when we got there but otherwise we were the only ones out there at 8am. The air was brisk but felt perfect for a hike. There was an uphill right from the trailhead, a gentle and wide access road, but I knew that once we arrived at the lake that the trail wouldn’t change in elevation much until we were beyond the lake, when you get to an unimproved route into a chute and to another trail called the Minerva Mountain Trail.
We found the lake to be very still and incredibly peaceful at that early morning hour. I was torn between the desire to just pull up a chair and sit all day while reading a book, pausing periodically to stare at the lake and our surroundings, and by the desire to poke around slowly at all of the mossy covered items lying in the forest.
Along the main trail are several small side trails that lead to boardwalks to fish and sight-see. I spotted a ‘duck’ which Chris corrected me by saying it was a loon! I’d kind of forgotten about loons, those ubiquitous calls echoing over the New England lakes on the Appalachian Trail. Of course they were here in Alaska, too!
Everywhere I looked I was reminded of our hike in the Hoh Rainforest—everything was moist, vibrant, and mossy.
Somewhere along the trail it really hit me that, oh-my-gosh I’m in Alaska! And as much as I’d been enamored with and enjoyed the ocean portion of the cruise, this really hit home that Alaska was a Big Deal and Amazing!
Of course the entire time I’m pondering what plants are what, trying to sort plants into Families so I can look them up later. A few plants I took photos of on my phone so I could throw them into iNaturalist when I had cell signal in town in order to get a quick ID.
After we crossed the bridges for the stream we started slowly climbing up. We were supposed to be looking for little cairns or someplace it appeared a fairy would live and we thought we found that area and stopped to take a short break and eat a snack. Chris looked around for signs of off trail foot travel and we came across a piece of flagging about twenty feet off the trail. He bushwhacked down a bit and decided that it might be the trail so after our snack we all forged on only to wind up back on the main trail just about 100 feet down from where we’d began. Nope, not the right trail. If it had just been Chris and me we would have turned around and climbed back up to continue looking but Forest was already itching to return back to the trailhead and thus we continued that direction instead.
“We walked always in beauty, it seemed to me. We walked and looked about, or stood and looked. Sometimes, less often, we would sit down. We did not often speak. The place spoke for us and was a kind of speech. We spoke to each other in the things we saw.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
Chris decided to head up from the creek a bit once we’d descended back down a little to see if maybe he could find this supposed waterfall. Instead he found a potential hunter’s camp and not much else.
We lucked out after we returned to the trailhead as another group had just been dropped off by a taxi. Chris had just called the taxi and they’d said someone was on their way—turned out they had already arrived—so it made the getting back to town situation a lot easier. I would 100% recommend anyone visiting Ketchikan stop by this trail if they are in for a short visit. I wish we’d had more time to head further up the trail or to check out the other intersecting trails. It was a first glimpse of how much I fell for Alaska.
The day and a half we had sailing the beginning of the Inside Passage was one of my favorite parts of our trip to Alaska. Ok, the entire trip was pretty much my favorite part of the trip (hah!) but what was pleasant about this time was that we didn’t have to be doing anything. We could lounge in the room, sit on the deck watching the water, sit inside the Garden Cafe (aka: the buffet) and watch the water while eating a dessert or sipping coffee. So, that’s just what we did.
Leaving port during those early evening hours we got glimpses of Canadian islands from the Inside Passage with remote camps and lodges tucked away in coves. I spied several that I could easily make as my own secluded outpost. The following day we cruised through Queen Charlotte Sound before passing Haida Gwaii or the Queen Charlotte Islands. This was a pretty great wildlife day with several humpback whale sightings as well as as several mola mola (ocean sunfish) sightings.
There’s not much to say other than it was peaceful and so very scenic.
My friend Patrice posted her monthly “Currently” post and I remembered I hadn’t done one since August, so here I am!
What am I thinking? I don’t really know.
Mustering up the energy and interest to garden once again. All of the work in the edible garden this summer really took a lot out of me and I really needed September to not do anything. I did do some minor cleanup in the flower garden and have done some light weeding in the edible beds but mostly it has been hands off. I managed to sow some fall edible seeds earlier this week and will need to continue that in the coming weeks. I need a break so I’m glad things are on the downslope of growing right now.
I created an Autumn 2019 playlist on Spotify and I think I love it. I’m especially fond of The Comedian by Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner (John Pedigo) which I heard on 91.7 KXT sometime over the last two months. The rest of his catalog is really good as well and if you are into local folk music then it will be right up your alley. I’m also enjoying the The Highwomen, too.
I’m currently trying to finish two books, Gators, Guts, & Glory: Adventures Along the Florida Trail by Lauralee Bliss and Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North America’s Richest Forest by Bill Finch, Beth Maynor Young, Rhett Johnson. I recently finished Bossypants by Tina Fey. Yes, I’m several years behind on getting onto the bandwagon with it but I enjoyed it. I have Yes, Please! by Amy Poheler on deck to read soon. Both were library book sale books, so super cheap!
Watching & Listening:
The Downton Abbey movie—so good! Left me wanting more! I could go for a follow-up to this movie and then a movie set in like 1939 and the the Abbey getting ready for WWII. Or, maybe just another series in WWII. I had been watching my DVR recorded DAs from PBS but on a whim I looked it up on Amazon and the entire series is on there so I may start from the beginning while I crochet all winter.
I don’t think I ever wrote about Fleabag here when I watched it early in the summer, but it was one of the best shows I’ve watched this year. I was skeptical at first because there’s a lot of dead-pan British humour but I kept watching and fell in love as did everyone else on the internet who has watched it. It took me a while to figure out where The Priest was from but it finally came to me—he plays Moriarty in Sherlock. So, I found it fascinating how he can plays this very evil person and then he’s in his Hot Priest role for Fleabag. If you’ve got Amazon you should check the show out. I really wish I could wear the jumpsuit that everyone is gaga over but I am too short and a little chubby for the fit to work out right. Short girl problems.
Big Love is also on Amazon now so I’m going to rewatch that series. I watched a good half of it at our rental house in FL because for some reason the place came wired with HBO along with a handful of basic cable channels–and then we had to have some internet work done and boom, HBO disappeared. Booooo…so I never got to finish the series out. And last night I found a series called Britannia about the Roman invasion of England/Britannia at the end of the Iron Age. I don’t know a whole lot about this time period but my Wikipedia-ing has already taken me down rabbit holes.
I’m adding in this new section to talk about things I’m uh, looking forward to!
First off, my parents are coming down this weekend for a random last minute visit. They had a free weekend for once and thought it would be nice to come down and hang out for a long weekend (for them) so we’re excited for that. Also this weekend is the Pollinator Festival at Mercer Botanic Gardens so I think we’ll be heading over there for a few hours.
In a few weekends I’m having a weekend trip with two of my friends. Last year we made a trip to Temple and got a hotel room for a night after plans to go to Waco and visit the Magnolia shops got thwarted due to a Baylor football game. This year those same plans were thwarted when Magnolia decided to have some sort of celebration over that weekend and hotel prices shot through the roof. Considering everyone’s drive and locations we ended up finding a cabin at a state park. My friends will be ‘roughing it’ but to me this is going to be a luxury at a state park! I’m looking forward to a cool down and some porch sitting and chatting!
We may try to go out and try to find the Bartonia texana again this month as we did last year.
Oh, and I’m looking forward to Halloween with Forest this year. We picked out his costume early and by chance when we went to Michaels in early September. He’s going to be a dinosaur (not a surprise) and while he was kind of into it more last year, he’s going to be even more into all of it this year!
What’s up with you?
Last week I was out watering the plants on the potting bench when I spotted a beetle coming out of the compost pile. I had a hunch it was a horned passalus beetle and so I took a few photos and threw it into iNaturalist just to verify—I was right! I’d come across one at Lake Livingston State Park a year or two ago so I was already familiar with the insect, which gave me my initial hunch. Horned passalus beetles feed on decaying wood so I suspect this one was actually ingesting the pieces of wood that used to form the perimeter of the compost bins. Those perimeter pieces are now 7 years old and in serious need of replacement! The compost bins still function, though, and I have recently been replenishing both sides with grass and green debris from garden cleanup as well some bagged leaves we had from last winter. It’s time to start looking for bagged leaves again on folks’ driveways so we can start our browns stash again!
I finished up the top early Sunday morning as Forest and I were chilling in the west end Best Western in Galveston while Chris was out getting some fishing done at San Luis Pass. I’d worked on some of the finishing touches a few days before but only had to finish the sleeves and bottom edging. Yesterday I washed it out in the sink with some special yarn soap I’ve had for years and out came a lot of dirt and dingyness from being stored for eons—this was my grandmother’s yarn. I’d washed out a lot of the yarn in containers when I got them after she moved into the nursing home but I knew some of them weren’t going to get clean (read: not smell—she sprayed all sorts of chemicals in her apartment because of ‘bugs’. There were no bugs.) until after I’d crocheted the yarn together and washed the final product.
So, it feels nice to have completed another crochet project once again. Forest asked me to make him a blanket and I groaned at that. I’ve mostly left my afghan making days behind and the kid has a million and one blankets from gifts people made for him as a baby and we only ever use one or two. He doesn’t need blankets—but he asked for a specific colorway and so, I’m going to make it for him. Between that and the next garment I’m planning on crocheting, I’ll be busy the rest of the autumn!